Using Psychoanalysis to Understand Human Behavior

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Using Psychoanalysis to Understand Human Behavior According to Goethe, "We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe." Despite the hyperbolic nature of Goethe’s statement, it holds some truth. Because of this element of truth, society looks to psychoanalysis as an important tool for understanding human nature. Furthermore, psychoanalytic criticism of authors, characters, and readers has a place in literary criticism that is as important as the place of psychoanalysis in society. This is because of the mimetic nature of much of modern literature. In fact, the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan wrote, "If psycho-analysis is to be constituted as the science of the unconscious, one must set out from the notion that the unconscious is structured like a language,"(1) thus directly relating literature – the art of language - and psychoanalysis. Searching the database of the Modern Language Association for articles about the use of psychoanalysis for understanding Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man yields one article by Caffilene Allen, of Georgia State University, in Literature and Psychology in 1995. Thus, further study of this subject seems warranted. As Allen points out, "Purely psychoanalytic interpretations of Invisible Man are rare, even though Ellison clearly threads the theories of at least Freud throughout his novel."(2) Because of the rarity of psychoanalytic critiques of Invisible Man, this paper will examine the character of the invisible man in the Prologue and Epilogue of Ellison’s masterpiece using the theories of Sigmund Freud, Carl Gustav Jung, and Jacques Lacan. The first step in this study should be to look at previous psychoanalytic critiques of Invisibl... ... middle of paper ... ...ey’ve been looking for. This study, through the analysis of the modern American masterpiece Invisible Man, brings to life psychoanalysts of three generations: Sigmund Freud, Carl Gustav Jung, and Jacques Lacan. Though their theories are dense and sometimes difficult, relating them to an easily accessible novel turns them into easily accessible theories. The aim of this paper was to fill a void where psychoanalytic criticism of Invisible Man was lacking. The result has been the bringing together of psychoanalysis and literature in a way that makes each more enjoyable and alive. With people believing in invisibility now, this paper has a wider audience to reach than just members of academia; it may be able to aid the friends of the Web who care for those who suffer from invisibility. Take to mind that psychoanalysis can shed new light on any dark cave of the mind.

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